I’ve got a bat. Actually, I have 10 little bats and they’re shaped suspiciously like fingers. Don’t worry, they’re mine and they’re ready to gouge the eye of technology… repeatedly, with lots of details, photos, unnecessary screaming and a skull that looks oddly like meat.

Yes, it’s time to take a look at the HP EliteBook 8740w you saw the bear unboxing and contest announcement of last week. It’s the most feature-rich computer I’ve used, and there are some interesting things I think you’ll like to know.

Here’s a breakdown of the systems specs again if you didn’t catch it the first time. As you may know, this is HP’s top-of-the-line EliteBook 8740w Mobile Workstation, valued at US $4,899. This configurations has:

  • Windows® 7 Professional 64-bit
  • Intel® Core™ i7-740QM (1.73GHz, 6MB L3 Cache)
  • 8GB 1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM
  • 500GB 7200RPM Hard Drive
  • NVIDIA Quadro 5000m dedicated 2GB DDR5
  • 2.0MP integrated webcam
  • DVD+/-RW SuperMulti with Double Layer LightScribe Drive
  • 17.0-inch diagonal LED-backlit WSXGA+ WVA anti-glare (HP DreamColor Display)
  • Spill-resistant, full-size BACKLIT keyboard with numeric keypad
  • Touchpad and pointstick mouse, both with three-buttons
  • Fingerprint sensor

Other specs:

  • Construction: Magnesium alloy chassis, gun metal finish
  • Weight: 7.8 lb (3.57 kg)
  • Dimensions: 15.6 x 11.2 x 1.4 in (397.5 x 285.5 x 36.5 mm)
  • Energy Efficiency: ENERGY STAR® qualified; EPEAT® Gold
  • Battery: 8-cell (73 WHr) Li-Ion
  • Other: Microsoft Office 2010 preloaded

For the full specs, here’s an overview of all the 8740w features. Now for the breakdown on this beast.

First thoughts on the HP 8740w Mobile Workstation

Now, in the contest, you’ve told me the types of computers you are using. So, just to let you know the perspective I looking at this from… My computer at work is a custom built 32-bit Windows XP rig with an AMD processor and 2GB of RAM. It was built in 2005. My home computer is a HP Pavilion Entertainment PC 32-bit Vista that actually just overheated and shutdown tonight… yeah, so needless to say, moving to a 64bit machine with 8GB of RAM is going to be a little bit impressive. However, I’m attempting to not let the shiny backlit keyboard I’m typing on right now put me into a hypnotic HP hyping high…. did I mention it was shiny? I mean, really… really shiny? Ok, shake it off.

Once upon an afternoon…
Once upon an afternoon…I took an HP EliteBook 8740w mobile workstation out of a box. I set it squarely on a table my children use to paint pictures of birds, leaves and wild yaks feeding on lichen in the hallow of a Himalayan valley. After all the contents were out, it was time to see exactly what this machine was capable of. *Thunder rumbles in distance* Yeah, so, as you will see, the exterior is a sleek, yet cold gun metal finish (magnesium alloy), rugged looking yet modern and minimal… Click images to enlarge.

The design
It’s a sleek, very industrial design. A bit much for the Mac types perhaps, but all the chunkiness for the more rugged computing types. That said, it easy to carry, feels solid and the two-point latching mechanism doesn’t snag. The top edges of the laptop are square with a nice rounded so splitting heads with the closed thickness of ~1.4″ won’t be as dramatic, but you’re not likely to receive permanent scaring from carrying the 8 lb machine around without a case. It has an ample omount of USB inputs, two USB 3.0 and two USB 2.0. The USB ports are all up front which, if you’re using a wireless device, like a mouse can be annoying because the wireless receiver sticks out right where your mouse is. Along with a tear for that is another tear for the headphone jack location. It’s right up on the front edge. Nice if you have a headphone cord that’s two inches long, but sucks if you have a speaker system that plugs into the headphone jack. It makes me sort of miss the days when more of the connections were on the backside.

The keyboard
Shiny. It’s nothing but wonderful. Quiet, sensitive, enjoys walks on the beach and on top of all of that, it’s backlit. The backlit keys are a beauty, especially for someone like me who types in the dark because the light is scary and hurts my skin. It’s got the full-size keyboard thing going for it too, full number pad and the Ctrl and Shift keys actually put in the right locations. Good on that HP. The nub by the G and H key up there is the pointstick mouse. This is the first computer I’ve used that has one of those. The mouse buttons below the space bar makes it convenient, but I’m so use to a touchpad that it won’t get used much at first. What’s extremely nice about the pointstick though is the responsiveness. Sooooooo nice, smooth in fact. Keeps the CTS and ganglions at bay. My big complaint about the keyboard, and this is MAJOR, is the PRT SC (Print Screen) Key. You have to press the function key to use the PRT SC key to take a screen shot. All the HP laptops I’ve used are like this and it’s super lame. For anyone who’s in the print, media, graphics, blogging, writing, teaching or publishing scene this is about annoying as it can get. Switch it around HP, please.

and then I started it up…
I didn’t know what to expect when I started up the EliteBook – Explosions, flashing lights, dancing rats shooting tiny potato guns in sync with the flashing lights… Anything could happen. Much to my delight orange and cyan lights did start flashing at me,. Much to my dismay there were no dancing rats. The screen flickered. Thats’s when I started to get a little excited… Click to enlarge

Welcome indeed. It took a little while to start up. It was a brand, spankin’ new installation of Window 7, not a painful process at all. Once the computer was up, I got into setting up the new laptop. Something I found out I enjoy doing way too much. First up was getting connected to the web and getting some programs installed. This is how it went down.

Connection to the Internet
You might think this is obvious. It never is. Every laptop I use has the “Wireless ON” switch in a different location. On the HP 8740w, it’s a touch sensitive button above the keyboard and just right of the power button. Because I don’t beleive in looking at any paper type instructions that point out where certain things are, it took be about 15 minutes of feeling around the edges, lifting up the computer, crying and poking buttons before I saw the bright blue light turn on. Success.

Security Tools
HP ProtectTools is on the screen after the computer starts up. I didn’t know it, but there are additional security feature you can enable like the use of fingerprint identification (don’t take my fingers) and SmartCards. It prompts you to set up a ‘SpareKey’ (HP data protection (.pdf)) which I learned is a few security questions you set up on the computer in case you lose your password… or a finger. NICE.

How I set up a new computer
This is my first Windows 7 computer, but all of these setting are pretty much like Vista. However, Windows 7 is such a cleaner interface and generally better in every single way. After using this, I’m going to breakMy initial setup on a new computer always includes the following:

  • Turn off User Access Control (UAC) Notification (Control Panel, Action Center, Change User Account Control Settings, move down to Never Notify)
  • Set files and folders to display as list, by type, with file extensions shown (Explorer, Organize, Folder and Search Options, View tab)
  • Increase pointer speed to Max and turn on Move pointer to default button in dialog box (Control Panel, Mouse, Pointer Options tab)
  • Decrease the size of icons on the Desktop (Ctrl, Scroll middle mouse wheel)

The Display
What’s a high-end laptop without a high-end display you can mark-up with your fingers? Wait, unfortunately this isn’t a touchscreen. Ok for me, but my kids are currently convince every screen is an iPad. (Thanks Apple, thanks.) Nonetheless, the screen *chill up spine* is beeeeautiful. It’s a 1920 x 1200 resolution, 17.0-inch (diagonal), LED-backlit WSXGA+ WVA, anti-glare display. The only thing left to slap on the end of that description is this. It’s an HP DreamColor Display. This is “a new liquid crystal display (LCD) that provides a range of more than 1 billion colors in a 30-bit, LED-backlit display.” (more info) Over 1 Billion colors… the common display is a 32-bit with 16.7 million colors max. And seriously, looking into this screen causes salivary gland secretions. I’m not sure how the images above look on the screen you’re using, but on this screen, they pop like one billion rainbows eating one billion exploding rainbows. (Oh, check it, they have desktop DreamColor displays too. Dang pricey!)

One of the HP tools that help with the color settings – Luminance, resolution, chromacity, etc. is the HP Mobile Display Assistant. I’m not much for having a bunch of OEM software installed on my computer and HP tends to pack a lot on, but this first one I’ve used, is very useful for adjusting screen and color setting. So useful, I’m interested in the others they’ve packed in as well. It’s a 32-bit app that used about 24k of memory when active (16k when not active). Close to the amount of memory that Windows Explorer uses when idle. The other HP apps (HP Wireless assist, HP Power Assist, HP Skyroom, etc.) roughly use about the same about of memory, but you probably won’t (shouldn’t) have them all running at once. Here’s the HP Display Assistant interface.

Initial Program Load
Here’s my initial program load. These are the programs I’m in most throughout the day and night. I’ll be giving getting into these programs a little more in the future, seeing how they play with power in this computer and ultimately seeing how mobile I can really get.

  • Google Chrome
  • Dropbox
  • SolidWorks 2011
  • Photoshop CS5

Pros

  • Rugged design
  • full-size, backlit keyboard
  • 30-bit, 1 billion color display
  • Quiet

Cons

  • USB Port locations
  • Headphone jack locations
  • Print Screen (prt sc) button requires function (fn) button

Overall
Overall, my first impressions of this machine are this machine, despite the small annoyances, are that it’s well built, quiet and way more power than I’ve ever had before. I opened up about 40 full size photos and didn’t even dent the processing or slow down the performance or responsiveness of the multiple programs running. I plan to apply a little more pressure to see just what it can handle. In the meantime, I leave you with photos of a meat skull posing with the HP EliteBook. (The skull is actually a color 3D print from a company named ZCorporation.)

I took the photos of the skull with the display in the background to test out the color settings and show how it looked in lighted conditions and at wide viewing angles. As you can see, you’ve got a nice wide viewing angle. No one works at that angle, but yeah, there is no visible darkening when moving about dodging things people are throwing at you. The light reflects on the screen, but it’s not as bright as a display with a shiny screen. It’s anti-glare, but not completely anti-glare. OK, I was going to finish the post a long time ago. I really wish you could see how these photos look on this display. Click to Enlarge.

More to come…

We’ve got more planned for this laptop. Here are just a few things coming up. If you have something in particular you want to know about the laptops performance or features, drop a comment or contact me.

  • HP 8740w 2D and 3D Benchmark
  • HP 8740w Large Assembly performance
  • HP 8740w 3D Rendering performance
  • Going Mobile with the HP 8740w

But wait!!!
There is only a couple more days left in the SolidSmack “Whatcha Got?” HP EliteBook contest! You could win a laptop just like the one above, FOR REALS. It ends Sunday night, so, if you haven’t, head over and leave a comment about whatcha got and how you would use a laptop like this! Good luck!!!

Disclosure: HP has provided this laptop to SolidSmack to keep in agreement to publish some reviews about it. None of these reviews, thoughts or opinions are being reviewed, edited or checked over for images of squirrels with shaved heads.

Author

Josh is co-founder of EvD Media. He engineers and designs, is the Director of Marketing for Luxion, is CSWP certified for SolidWorks training and support and excels at falling awkwardly. He is editor of SolidSmack.com and co-host of EngineerVsDesigner.com, a weekly podcast about design, engineering and what makes it all happen.